Retrospective: An unexpected find in Torino

AGR_Torino_Lancia (1)The chances of actually seeing a Lancia Beta Montecarlo in real life these days are practically zero, let alone seeing a mint condition example in the city it was designed and built in. Most of these elegant junior supercars have either rusted away by now, or have been punted into trees due to locked front wheels in heavy to moderate braking situations. Or both. In certain parts of Europe you’ve actually got a greater chance of encountering a Ferrari F40 or F50, which is why I’ve decided to take a quick retrospective look back at a chance encounter with a Beta Montecarlo back in 2013.

AGR_Torino_Lancia (4)Camping my way around Europe, I’d arrived in Turin and discovered a brilliant little campground nestled around the gardens of a crumbling villa, perched high in the hills overlooking the city. Turin is to Italy what Stuttgart is to Germany and what Detroit is to America – the spiritual home of its automotive industry. And whilst I was primarily there for its high automotive museum content, it was a Saturday night and I wanted to get out and do something. I spent most of that evening in the city, only returning to the campground at around midnight to discover a pop-up bar and a few hundred people just fifty metres from my tent.

AGR_Torino_Lancia (3)I’d left in the afternoon, and I returned to find that exactly what I was looking for had been right under my nose the whole time. I don’t speak a word of Italian so I had no idea who was behind it or what it was, but they smiled and sold me a drink nonetheless.

AGR_Torino_Lancia (2)Part way through my first Campari and over the beat of the music, I heard the crunching of car on crushed gravel and the unmistakable and thoroughly unexpected sound of a hot Fiat twin cam engine at idle. I walked around the corner of the villa to see a young Italian guy and his girlfriend climb out of the most immaculate Beta Montecarlo I’d ever seen. It was very dark which made it difficult to spot detail, but I could just pick out a set of period Campagnolo wheels and that gruff Weber idle indicated a lot had happened since it left the factory in the late 70’s, just 10km down the hill from where we were at that moment. Without a tripod, the only way I could get photos in the darkness was to set up a few long exposures from the ground.

AGR_Torino_LanciaThe Montecarlo had it tough from day one. Pininfarina were initially commissioned to design a three-litre V6 powered sports car in the late sixties, but the fuel crisis of the seventies meant the Montecarlo used the familiar Lancia twin-cam four when it appeared in 1975. Nevermind the rust – it was really a bit underdone dynamically, and one wonders how cool it could have been if it were just a little more polished from the factory. But it wasn’t all bad as the Beta Montecarlo landed at the right time for the Group B revolution and a massive Fiat marketing budget – on the circuits it became the famous Lancia Group 5 Turbo, and on the world rally scene it was the base for the legendary Lancia 037.

AGR_Torino_Lancia (5)It was pretty cool sitting back that night, Campari in hand. Turin sprawled in front of me, Lancia Montecarlo behind.

AGR_Torino_Lancia (6)Of course the Lancia would be well overshadowed when I saw a Muira in traffic the next day, but that’s a story for another time.

Words and photos by Andrew Coles.

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